Rene Lopez said he moved three years ago to an unincorporated portion of Lake in the Hills that has been subject to persistent water main problems because of its severely outdated infrastructure.
Lopez hasn’t experienced serious water service problems at his home, and the village always has been prompt in addressing main breaks. However, he said a full restoration of the water system should have been completed years ago so residents wouldn’t be facing the possibility of a property tax increase to help pay for it.
The estimated 70-year-old water main system serves 71 customers, 67 of whom live in the unincorporated portion of the village, and has reached the end of its useful life, village staff have said. The neighborhood is south of Algonquin and Pyott roads.
In November, McHenry County consented to the village’s establishment of the unincorporated area as a special service area – a financing mechanism where a city could issue bonds that would be payable from property taxes levied from homeowners in the designated area.
Since then, the village has mapped out a plan to begin construction of the water main work by February 2020.
“There’s a lot of moving parts, so we’ll see how this plays out,” Lake in the Hills Village President Russ Ruzanski said.
Last year, village staff said the pipes were so fragile that basic flushing maintenance could not be performed without causing water main breaks. Lake in the Hills Public Works Department Director Dan Kaup said that on average, the neighborhood experiences about five water main breaks a year, accounting for more than 60 percent of breaks in the village.
Each water main repair costs about $4,300, village staff reported.
In July 2017, Central States Water Resources approached staff about selling the system for $1. The possible sale was panned by unincorporated residents who were concerned about significant increases to their water bills, and trustees ultimately voted against it.
During the discussions, a committee was formed of unincorporated residents, village trustees, a member of the Algonquin Township board and a member of the McHenry County Board. These stakeholders were tasked with brainstorming solutions to make the water main system self-funded or -maintained.
Rachel Zastrow, an unincorporated resident who serves on the committee, said the group looked at several possibilities, but the establishment of an SSA was the best option, which requires residents to pay for the upgrade.
For voting against the sale of the water main system, Zastrow commended the village trustees on the committee for treating the community not as a line item on a budget but as human beings who are trying pay for their families to survive.
“It looks like they’ll continue to keep us in the loop, and we’re very excited,” Zastrow said.
In February, the village approved a low bid from H.R. Green, which has been serving the village for more than a decade, to complete the design engineering services. Village staff will be spending $90,630 for these services and will request funding for construction management services in fiscal 2020.
Kaup said the next step in the process will be to obtain a high-end cost and tax levy information through a consultant, which is expected to be complete by the end of March.
“That not-to-exceed amount we’ll have by the end of March so we can give residents a better idea of how it will affect their property tax bills when it’s rolled out,” Kaup said.
An engineer’s estimate compiled by H.R. Green in 2018 put the cost of a water main replacement at about $1.8 million.
In April, an SSA-proposing ordinance is to be presented to the board for action. This will be followed by a 60-day review and objection period.
The village expects to award construction and adopt a bond ordinance for the project by Oct. 22. After a 30-day review period, the bonds will be issued, assuming action is approved by the board.
The first-year tax levy is expected to be issued at a Dec. 12 board meeting.
If everything goes through, construction would begin in February.